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7 dead, over 270 missing as Tropical Storm “Ockhi” forms just south of India

4-dead-20-missing-as-tropical-storm-ockhi-forms-just-south-of-india

At least 7 people were killed and more than 270 others are missing as heavy rains hit coastal Tamil Nadu, India and Sri Lanka on Wednesday and Thursday, November 29 and 30, 2017, after a depression in the Bay of Bengal intensified into a Cyclonic Storm "Ockhi." Ockhi is the third named storm of the 2017 North Indian Ocean cyclone season. Heavy rain is expected across the region at least until Saturday, December 2. The system is expected to further intensify into a Severe Cyclonic Storm as it moves toward Lakshadweep archipelago.

On November 20, the remnant energy of Tropical Storm "Kirogi," which hit southern Vietnam on November 19, led to the formation of a new low-pressure area over the Gulf of Thailand. During the next several days, the system moved into the Bay of Bengal and slowly drifted westward, but was unable to organize significantly due to unfavorable conditions. On November 29, the storm organized into a depression just off the southeast coast of Sri Lanka, and the IMD gave it identifier BOB 07. Due to its rapidly consolidating low level circulation center the JTWC issued a TCFA on the system shortly before classifying it as Tropical Cyclone 03B.

Ockhi, whose name means eye in Bengali, was officially named 03:00 UTC on November 30 when it was about 60 km (37 miles) from the southern tip of Tamil Nadu, India and 340 km (210 miles) WNW of Galle, Sri Lanka. The system had maximum 3-minute sustained wind speeds of about 65 km/h (40 mph) / 1-minute sustained wind speed of 75 km/h (45 mph) and minimum estimated central pressure of 998 hPa. It was moving WNW at a speed of 38 km/h (24 mph).

Due to heavy rain produced by this system, schools in seven districts of the state of Tamil Nadu including Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari, and Virudhunagar were closed. In Thoothukudi and Kanyakumari, strong winds uprooted hundreds of trees, snapped power lines and damaged settlements close to the sea. 

There are at least four rain-related deaths, including an elderly couple who were electrocuted in front of their house at Kattakada near Thiruvananthapuram, reports PTI. Three men and a woman were killed in different incidents of trees falling on them in Kanyakumari district. Nearly 20 000 are affected.

Video courtesy NDTV

As of 09:00 UTC today, the center of Cyclonic Storm "Ockhi" was located 120 km (74 miles) WSW of Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, 180 km (112 miles) SSW of Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala and 360 km (224 miles) ESE of Mincoy, locally known as Maliku, an island in Lakshadweep archipelago, India.

According to the RSMC Delhi, Ockhi has maximum sustained surface wind speeds of 65 km/h (40 mph), gusts to 83 km/h (52 mph) and estimated central pressure of 998 hPa at the time. Over the past six hours, Ockhi was moving WNW at a speed of 20 km/h (12.4 mph)

The system is very likely to continue moving WNW toward Lakshadweep Islands and intensify further into a Severe Cyclonic Storm during the next 24 hours.

Tropical Storm Ockhi  on November 30, 2017

Tropical Storm "Ockhi"  on November 30, 2017. Credit: NASA/NOAA Suomi NPP/VIIRS

Tropical Storm Ockhi forecast track by JTWC on November 30, 2017

Tropical Storm "Ockhi" forecast track by JTWC on November 30, 2017

Tropical Storm Ockhi November 30, 2017

Credit: IMD / RSMC Delhi

New threat brews

Meanwhile, a low pressure area currently located over Malay Peninsula and adjoining South Andaman Sea persists and is likely to be a well marked system during the next 24 hours and concentrate into a depression within 48 hours.

Eastern India is likely to feel its impacts as early as Monday night, December 4. Areas from Tamil Nadu to Andhra Pradesh are at highest risk for flooding and strong winds.

Update

November 30 @16:50 UTC

According to local media reports, over 270 fishermen have not returned to the Thiruvananthapuram coast, triggering widespread panic in the coastal belt hit by Ockhi.

A marine engineering vessel, around 28 fishing vessels from Poonthura harbor and six boats from the Kollam coast are stranded in the sea, Manorama Online reports.

The fishermen have just enough food and fuel to last them a night and were supposed to return by 10:00 local time Thursday, their article states.

Rescue boars of the Indian Navy and Air Force choppers are conducting rescue mission, Kerala minister Kadakampilly Surendran said.

Featured image: Tropical Storm "Ockhi" on November 30, 2017. Credit: UW-CIMSS

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